After the standard tortuous journey on Polish trains (see previous post), our hotel for the night (Pałacyk Łancut) was an oasis of peace, calm, and tranquility. The dinner of the previous night set expectations too high for a breakfast that was a let down. With only a few pieces of almost stale bread, cheese, ham, fruit of the devil (tomato), and the requisite parzona coffee, we were hungry to see Łancut Palace. We’d had a brief glimpse of it the previous afternoon so knew exactly where to buy our tickets – which we would’ve bought other than that it was 8:30am and the palace didn’t open for another 2.5 hours. We made a disappointing, but pragmatic, decision to skip the interior, stroll around the grounds, and then load the rigs for the first day of cycling. [flickr size=”small” float=”left”]4942600578[/flickr]
With shoes clipped in, saddle sat on, and bars in hands we set off on a journey I had been anticipating for 5 years. My anticipation stems from the almost mythical significance that eastern Poland, including Lwow in the Ukraine (140kms east), plays in the national & cultural psyche of Poles. Essentially, I wanted to see what all the fuss is about. This is the land of the Polish princes where castles and palaces adorn rugged escarpments, guard tranquil valleys, and sprawl along snaking rivers. I’ve never really grasped the relationship that we Australians have with the largely uninhabited interior of Australia and its valorised position in our national psyche. Maybe eastern Poland is a proxy which will help illuminate the pull of the unfamiliar, the strange, and the other. Maybe the next 600kms will untangle these thoughts.
As is the way, trucks on single lane ‘highways’ have a way of destroying a contemplative mood in about 5 meters flat. And any fragment of reflection was entirely shattered by an 18 wheeler passing within gnat’s wing of myself. Needless to say the brief vacuum left in the trucks wake, post buffeting and quaking, was rapidly filled with futile, yet mainly satisfying, gesturing and remonstrating. Recognising the futility is paramount as “even though it may seem like it, the drivers aren’t actually trying to kill you”. Cold comfort, and especially cold, if you’re laid out on a freezing slab with only a toe tag as company for your journey to the afterlife.
Taking a side-road right to avoid further encounters and steering towards an intriguing architectural structure left us in a…dead-end! Turning around left us with a harried sprint to the town center of Sieniawa where we settled on the overpriced Palace of Sieniawa restaurant, as food options were few and far between. But what was that structure we saw in the distance? It was towering above the plain with its eastern orthodox inspired towers and its multitude of stories and chambers. The air of intrigue thickened as the waiter, pressed by questions, mentioned that the building of ‘one of the largest palaces in Europe’ was the folly of a local man made good. That was all we needed to hear to want to avoid it. But you can see photos here: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/23354090.
On the way out of Sieniawa we visited the church which houses the crypt of the Czartoryski family, otherwise known as ‘the Familia’, whom the entire estate belonged to. Being a product of their time, they were a Polish/Ukranian/Lithuanian magnate family from the 18th century which you can read more about on their Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Czartoryski_family.
Ożanna and its lake were only 17kms along the road and we made good time. Our prior research had indicated that there were several accommodation options in Ożanna, but after arriving the lack of map detail and signage made the task more orienteering in practice. Settling on a lakeside agrotourism for a grand total of 70zł (£12) with dinner and breakfast (with a berating from the matron thrown in for free) was the easiest option. The berating was in response to us not making a booking, arriving after she had cooked obiad (dinner), and neglecting to close the bedroom windows. Let me define optimism: believing that in mid-August, next to a lake, that mosquitos wouldn’t fly 3 stories up to perform their customary vampire routine on unprepared but suspecting tourists who left their windows open. Repellant spraying, mozzie hunting, and subsequent squashing with a hand rolled ‘cycling shirt swatter’ should be an Olympic sport.
Accommodation: Janina Szczap Agrotourism
Anywhere from 15-30zł per person for basic accommodation with shared facilities, cafeteria style restaurant, complimentary mosquitos and matronly scolding.
Food: Janina Szczap Agrotourism
The same style of food that you would expect from a Polish ‘bar mleczny’(Milk bar): pierogi (vegetable or meat filled dumplings), schabowy (pork schnitzel), & various types of sałatka (grated vegetable salads).